“PROPHETS, PRAYERS, AND PROMISED BLESSINGS”

 

Brigham Young University-Idaho Education Week Devotional

June 27, 2003

Coleen K. Menlove

 

I am so happy to be here at BYU-Idaho for Education Week.  I have great admiration for those who seek to take advantage of learning opportunities during the “lazy, hazy days of summer and fun.” Being here on campus reminds me that I never did quite conquer the art of attending school during the summer. I had two experiences trying to mix summer and education.  My first was as a single student trying to fall in love and take sociology. I received my lowest grade on record. My second attempt at summer school was at BYU-Provo.  As a wife and mother of two, I was on a fast track to complete a master’s degree. I borrowed my dad’s car, with no air-conditioning, for the summer, and drove from our home in Salt Lake to Provo three days a week.

 

As I arrived home on the last day of making that hot trek in the 5:30 p.m. stop-and-go traffic, I was suffering from heat exhaustion. My husband had to help me get out of the car.  When he experienced the heat in the car, he investigated and discovered that the heater had been stuck on high for the entire hot summer.  I admire you for your efforts at summer learning.  You have gathered with eagerness to learn at this season of the year and in all seasons of your life.  You truly are examples of the theme for this year’s Education Week, “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.”[1]

 

When President Gordon B. Hinckley visited the BYU-Idaho campus last October he said:  “I pray the Lord will smile with favor upon you.  I pray that your days may be happy and rich with the experience of learning.  I pray that your faith may be nourished.”[2]  What a mighty gift for a living prophet of God to pray such blessings upon those who attend here at BYU-Idaho, and I believe that also includes those who attend Education Week here on this campus.

 

Today, June 27th, marks the 159th year since the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1844.  It is the date on which Joseph Smith sealed with his blood his testimony that the heavens are open.  President Hinckley chose June 27, 2002, as the date for the dedication of the restored Nauvoo Illinois Temple.  President Hinckley desires for us to gain a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It all began with a simple, yet mighty prayer of a young boy. 

 

My focus during this next hour will be on prophets, prayers, and promised blessings.  For some, this focus on prayer will confirm what you already know and feel about the promised blessings of prayer.  For others of us, it will be an opportunity to examine our understanding and testimony of prayer. This can be a time to ponder questions such as: 

 

What can I learn from Joseph Smith’s experience with prayer?

How can my prayers be more meaningful?

How do I know when prayers are answered? 

What are some of the promised blessings of prayer?

In Primary, teachers give children opportunities to share their feelings about what they are learning.

A teacher might ask Primary children to share their feelings about “Why do we pray?” or “What are some of the blessings we receive from prayers?” Or a teacher might ask the children to tell about a time when their prayer was answered.  The class today is too large for us to share our personal experiences, yet you may wish to make a note of the impressions you receive about prayer, especially your personal prayers.  As I became more focused on prayer these last few weeks, I started writing some thoughts in a notebook I keep by my bedside.  A little later, I would like to share some of the impressions I recorded.

 

Purpose of Prayer

 

Before we came to this earth, we lived in the presence of our Heavenly Father.  We saw His face and heard His voice.  We knew His plan and His will for us.  Leaving His presence must have been difficult for us.  It is a great comfort to know that even though we are no longer in His physical presence, we can still feel His love and receive His counsel through prayer.  As Elder Russell M. Nelson reminds us, “We may pray to Him any time.  No special equipment is needed.  We don’t even need to charge batteries or pay a monthly service fee.”[3]

 

Prayer is one of the first and most often repeated commands given by God to men.  One of the first commandments God gave Adam and Eve was “that they should worship the Lord their God.”[4] Adam and Eve “called upon the name of the Lord, and they heard the voice of the Lord.”[5]  And they “ ceased not to call upon God.”[6] Abraham prayed, Moses prayed, and so did prophets of all dispensations. Elder David E. Sorensen teaches, “Prayer is the defining act of the worshipper of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”[7] 

 

Learning about Prayer from Joseph Smith and Other Prophets

 

We can learn valuable lessons about the power and the blessings of prayer as we study the experiences and teachings of the prophets.  Through the Prophet Joseph Smith’s experience, we learn the relationship between our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ.  This knowledge was restored when Joseph lifted his voice to heaven.  He was answered by the appearance of the Father, who introduced His Son and invited Joseph to “hear Him.”[8]  When we pray, we acknowledge that the Father provided His Son as the Redeemer of the world. We call upon the Father in the name of the Son because the Son provided our actual redemption from the Fall.  He, the Son, suffered for us, died for us, and broke the bands of death for us, thus becoming our Advocate with the Father.[9] Christ is the master and exemplifier of prayer.  His prayer to His Father in Gethsemane is an incomprehensible pleading for strength to proceed with the work of the infinite and eternal Atonement.

 

After His great intercessory prayer and after His resurrection, He still prayed to the Father, as described in 3 Nephi: “He . . . knelt upon the earth; and behold He prayed unto the Father. . . .   Neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father; and no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard Him pray for us unto the Father.”[10]  This record of Jesus Christ praying to His Father in Heaven gives us a glimpse of the glory and joy Joseph Smith must have experienced when he received answers to his prayer.

 

Elder Eyring states: “Joseph Smith’s mission was unique, yet his humble prayer can be a helpful model for us.  He began . . . with faith in a loving God who can and wants to communicate with us and help us. That faith was rooted in impressions which came to him as he pondered the words of God’s servants in the scriptures.”[11] Joseph’s prayer recognized that our loving Heavenly Father hears us, knows us, and answers our prayers.  Think of how different Joseph Smith’s prayers were from that day forward. He had seen God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. He had spoken with Them, he knew They were real. He had felt the power of the Spirit and received a witness of the truth. From that moment on his prayers must have had a new intensity since he now understood the Father and the Son’s relationship to each other and his relationship to Them.

 

If there are times when you doubt the Father is listening and that He answers prayers, remember the Primary song “A Child’s Prayer.”

 

“Heavenly Father, are you really there? 

And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?

Some say that heaven is far away,

But I feel it close around me as I pray.

Heavenly Father, I remember now

Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:

“Suffer the children to come to me.” 

Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.

 

Pray, He is there;

Speak He is list’ning.

You are His child;

His love now surrounds you. 

He hears your prayer;

He loves the children. 

Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.”[12] 

 

A Primary president was so impressed with a three-year-old’s prayer during Primary opening exercises that she sought out the parents and asked them how they taught their daughter to offer such a heart-felt prayer.  The father said they teach her that Heavenly Father is real and she is His spirit child.  There is a reason why the first lesson in the Primary One Manual is “I Am a Child of God” and the first song in the Children’s Songbook is “I Am a Child of God.” In the Bible Dictionary we read, “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part.”[13]

 

Four-year-old Jacob had completed six of the seven steps in his routine for going to bed.  If you are a young mother you know what those seven steps are–have a snack, brush the teeth, read two story books, give everyone in the family a kiss, get a drink of water, listen to a parent read from the scriptures, and then kneel down and say prayers.  In an effort to help Jacob say a more meaningful prayer, his exhausted mother attempted to remind him of what he might say in his prayer.  Jacob’s response was, “Mommy, my heart tells me what to say and I just say it.”

 

More Meaningful Prayer

 

The Lord declares, “Call upon me in mighty prayer.” [14]  How do we pray mightily?  It is the Spirit that makes prayer “mighty prayer.”  The Apostle Paul teaches, “For we know not what we should pray for as we ought:  but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”[15]  As we persist in daily prayer, we gradually become aware that the Spirit is prompting us, not only in how and what to pray for, but also in what the Lord wants for us. We are promised, “He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God; wherefore it is done even as he asketh.”[16]  Think about how we teach a young child to pray.  We whisper in his ear what we think he needs, and the child in faith repeats back the words.  We can know the words to say as we listen to the promptings of the Spirit.  The Bible Dictionary states, “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”[17]  Joseph Smith prayed continually for the Lord’s guidance in establishing and building up the kingdom of God on earth.  His desires were the desires of the Father and the Son.

 

Sometimes it is hard to feel we are growing in our ability to offer mighty prayers.  We offer what one child called a “mealtime prayer” instead of a personal, intimate prayer. Have you ever had the desire to get away from the world and contemplate how to develop a greater spiritual connection with the Father and His Son?   Joseph Smith must have had an “ah-ha” when he translated the words of Enos, in Book of Mormon.  Surely he remembered his own experience in the grove and again felt as Enos did,  “And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto Him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul.”[18]

 

Many times I have desired to have an experience like Enos.  I have gone for long walks and spent quiet, prayerful time at home alone with the desire to increase my ability to offer more heartfelt prayers.  I have come to realize that it is not about a one-time mighty prayer.  It is about making a commitment to pray daily with sufficient desire and effort to communicate with increased faith, obedience and love.

 

Our living prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, pleaded with us in April general conference, “that each of us will seek to live closer to the Lord and to commune with Him more frequently and with increased faith.”[19]  It would be well if we all examine our daily prayers and determine if we need to extend the intensity of our efforts in calling on the powers and blessings of heaven. President Hinckley said: “The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries–we place our order and hang up.  We need to meditate . . . and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another.”[20]  Learning to commune with the Lord is an ability we will need throughout eternity. 

 

There are times in all our lives when we are praying with regularity, but more as a matter of habit than desire.  Our thoughts are on other things and places, our communication is inattentive, our hearts are not centered upon prayer, and our words are perfunctory.  We know we can and should do better.  It is not about making prayers longer or more difficult.  It is about making the simple act of prayer more meaningful as an act of faith and worship.

 

Think about your prayer this morning.  What did you pray for?  We are counseled in the scriptures to pray for all things in righteousness, whether temporal or spiritual. Amulek speaks of crops and herds, of fields and flocks, as well as of mercy and salvation.[21]  Nephi says, “Ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.”[22]

 

President Hinckley counseled us in April general conference to pray for our children “that they may be shielded from the evils of the world, . . . that they may be directed toward lives that will be profitable and good.”[23]  He encouraged husbands to pray for their wives and wives to pray for their husbands.  He said to pray for peace in the earth, to pray for the weather, and to pray for wisdom and understanding.  “Let us be a prayerful people.”[24] 

 

We learn from the Lord, Himself, not only how to pray, but also what to pray for. On one occasion when the Lord’s disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, the Lord gave them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer and said, “After this manner therefore pray ye.”[25] This prayer was not given to those who were unlearned in prayer.  Prayer was part of the Jewish tradition from Adam down through the generations.  Many of us know the Lord’s Prayer by heart.  Why do you think we memorized this prayer when the Lord has said,  “Use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do”?[26]  I think the Lord’s Prayer is an example to help us utter our own words with sincere and real intent.

 

As we read and ponder the Lord’s Prayer, uttered by Christ, we will receive guidance from the Spirit in formulating our own prayers.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name”[27] reminds us how to address our Heavenly Father using the reverent and hallowed language of prayer.   This language includes the use of the words thy, thine, thee, and thou in addressing Deity, rather than you, your, and yours.  The language we use to address God mirrors the devotion and respect of our hearts and minds.  When parents and others pray using hallowed language, children are taught through example how our language shows respect.

 

“Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heaven”[28] reminds us of Christ’s words in the council in heaven: “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.”[29] Satan, in contrast, sought to destroy the agency the Lord had given men, and thus to take all power.  In prayer, we recognize the plan of salvation and express our acceptance of not only the plan, but also the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We express appreciation for living prophets and other priesthood leaders and the opportunity to sustain them by word and deed as we work together to build Zion. We pray for those who serve us, such as our bishop and priesthood and auxiliary leaders.   We pray for help and effectiveness in our individual callings, including as a home teacher or a Relief Society visiting teacher.

 

We give appreciation for our family relationships and express our desire for our homes to be as heaven on earth.   We ask that we will be sensitive to opportunities to love and serve one another. The Lord hears our prayers in behalf of our family and others.  One Sunday, a few days before a copy of my conference talk was to be submitted, I received a phone call from a granddaughter, nine-year-old Katie.  She said, “Grandmother Dear (that is my requested title), our family has been fasting and praying that you will be able to write your conference talk.  Is your talk done?  I am so hungry.  Is it OK if I end my fast now?”  I felt great peace about my unfinished conference talk, because I knew from that moment Katie’s prayer would be answered.

 

“Give us this day our daily bread”[30] reminds us to pray for what we need, recognizing that Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask Him.  So why do we need to ask?  Because we have the gift of agency. Prayer is an act of faith. We seek for the bread of eternal life, Jesus Christ, and to be His disciple.  We seek to acquire greater charity that we might obtain Christlike attributes.  A friend shared with me that she was awakened one Saturday morning at 5 a.m. by the sounds of her next-door neighbors preparing for a garage sale.  If that early hour wasn’t bad enough, some of the sale items were spilling over onto her front lawn.  As the morning progressed, her street and driveway filled with cars.  For her, the worst part, other than being awakened so early, was watching the tender grass on her front lawn being trampled. In a huff, she approached her neighbor to declare the injustice of it all. She had expected to receive insensitive excuses, but instead she learned that this family was holding a fundraiser for a charity.  She joined the sale by contributing from her own personal funds to support this good cause.  As we pray daily for guidance, we will be more inclined to make noble assumptions about the intentions of others.

 

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors”[31] teaches us to pray for forgiveness of our sins, transgressions, and weaknesses. Remember, Enos began his mighty prayer by reflecting on his relationship with the Lord and being determined to obtain a remission of his sins. We know Joseph Smith prayed for forgiveness of his sins.  In a revelation given to Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, . . . whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins.”[32]

 

From the Joseph Smith Translation we read, “And suffer us not to be led into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”[33] We are taught to pray for the strength to resist temptation.  I had a few close calls as a youth, times when there was clear and present danger for my spiritual well-being.  I know it was those late night prayers by my parents that called down the powers of heaven to protect and guide me to maintain the standards that I now teach with testimony to my own children.  There are times when all we can do is pray.  It is our first and last resort. 

 

We also pray for strength and comfort to be sustained in troubled times. When our trials seem like tragedies, we can remember the experience of Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail.  He received a test of faith as he pleaded to know the purpose of the tribulations he and the Saints were experiencing.  His answer was, “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”[34]  Like Joseph Smith, we may wonder where peace is to be found during times of awful sorrow, pain, and discouragement. We may wonder, at least for a moment, if it is worth it.  Darkness enters, thick dense darkness, and doubt invites darkness to stay.  I, like many of you, have pleaded for light and comfort when these experiences touch our lives and the lives of others, especially when they come in multiples.  Comfort comes from prayer when we understand the source of our comfort–our relationship with a loving Heavenly Father and the Atonement and mercy of Jesus Christ.

 

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.”[35]  Our desire is to glorify God and to submit to the will of our Father as we eliminate pride and impure motives from our lives.  In the words of Joseph Smith, we join all of God’s creation to glorify and praise God: “Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! . . . And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!”[36]  (Can you tell this is one of my favorite scriptures?) 

 

By following the example of the Lord’s Prayer, our prayers will become more meaningful. Meaningful prayer requires real effort and real faith.  We prepare our minds and hearts for prayer by studying the scriptures, obeying His commandments, improving our loving relationships with others, fasting, pondering, and contemplating the beauty and wonder of God’s creations.[37]  A mission president had the tradition of interviewing his missionaries and asking, “When did you have your last spiritual experience?”  The answers varied, but one missionary’s answer was unique. He replied, “This morning, when . . . I prayed.”  This mission president said, “. . . I did not doubt his word, for I knew of his commitment, his spiritual nature, and his ability to pray.”[38]

 

Recognizing Answers to Prayer

Believe in the power of prayer.  Pray with the expectation that prayers will be answered. Some of us have received a calling in the Church that required us to identify counselors to serve with.  Such an experience requires learning the Lord’s will—learning whom He has selected to serve together.  When President Hinckley issued the call for me to serve as the Primary general president, he also instructed me to ask the Lord whom He wanted to serve in this presidency. I was given counsel to learn the Lord’s will and the responsibility to report back within a few days.   I trusted the Lord would reveal through the Holy Spirit those He desired to be called, but I also knew I would need to prepare to receive such revelation.  I prayed I might live worthy of such communication through the Spirit.  After fasting, praying, pondering the scriptures, and attending the temple, a counselor’s name came as a direct message to my mind and heart.  The other counselor’s name came to my mind even as I was leaving President Hinckley’s office, but I thought that seemed too immediate.  I doubted, so I searched for a stronger impression.  I waited for a more miraculous experience.  While reading the scriptures, I received the message to “be still, and know,”[39] for I had been told.[40]   This experience was a another witness to me that the Lord does reveal His will in His own way to those He calls, and to each of us as we seek to know.

 

Elder Scott teaches, “When we receive help from our Father in Heaven, it is in response to faith, obedience, and the proper use of agency.”[41]  “Sometimes He answers yes, sometimes no.  Often He withholds an answer, not for lack of concern, but because He loves us–perfectly.  He wants us to apply truths He has given us.  For us to grow, we need to trust our ability to make correct decisions.  We need to do what we feel is right.  In time, He will answer. He will not fail us. . . .  He is conscious of our every need and could provide all the answers.  Yet, because His purpose is our eternal happiness, He encourages us to make the correct choices.”[42]

 

Elder Eyring reminds us, “With . . . faith, we will be able to pray for what we want and appreciate whatever we get.”[43] We live in a world of instant resolution.  We have fast and faster food, fast and faster Internet service, fast and faster service from drive-through and pick-up cleaners to pharmacies.  When prayers are not answered immediately in a seemingly drive-through, pick-up manner, we can become discouraged.  We may expect our prayers to be answered before or while we are asking.  Even Adam and Eve received answers only, “after many days” of praying and offering sacrifices.[44]

 

Remember that before Joseph’s prayer was answered a darkness came over him.  In his words:  “I was seized upon by some power, which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak.  Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.”[45]  That could have been the end of his experience except for what happened next.  Joseph reports: “Exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction– . . . just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.”[46] Often just before the light, the uncertainty tempts us to surrender.

 

Several years ago, after the birth of our fifth child, I experienced numbness in my face and lost the ability to close one eye.  Within a few days, two specialists diagnosed my condition as Bell’s palsy.  It was not physically painful; in fact, it was the numbness that was the problem.  I suffered from a prideful pain.  My face was distorted and I could not smile on one side.  Friends and family came to see our precious new baby, and I stayed in the bedroom out of sight, embarrassed because one side of my face had fallen. I became more and more self-conscious and more and more focused on me.  I wanted an instant cure. Many prayers were offered for my recovery. I received a priesthood blessing, but the days passed and there was no change.  Others shared stories of people they knew with Bell’s palsy.  All I could remember were the stories about people who did not recover and had to endure the permanent loss of their smile.  I felt the darkness of despair. I struggled to move beyond the pride of appearance and accept this trial.  Over time and with patience and long suffering, my muscle tone returned to almost normal, but the lesson of accepting what the Lord has designed for me has stayed.

 

There are times when we are part of the answer to someone else’s prayer.  Malorie, a second-grade student, had completed her homework but had misplaced it.   Her mother suggested that she practice her piano and then they would search for the homework papers.  After a few minutes, the music stopped and Malorie’s mother went looking for her daughter.  She found Malorie in her bedroom on her knees.  She could hear Malorie praying to find her lost homework.  Malorie’s mother became worried and began to pray herself.  “Please let my daughter find her homework and know that her prayers are heard and answered.  Please don’t let her lose her faith in prayer.”  Mother then began looking all over the house for the missing homework papers.  She received a strong impression.  Acting on this impression, she went outside to look in the trash.  There in the trash, right on top, was Malorie’s homework.  Inspiration can guide us to serve as the Lord’s hands in answering prayers if we are in frequent communication with Him through prayer.

 

When and Where We Pray

 

The scriptures instruct us to “pray always.”[47] Pray regularly, consistently, day in and day out; and also, live with the Spirit of prayer always in your hearts.  Again, Amulek speaks of praying “both morning, mid-day, and evening.”  We should “pour out [our] souls” to the Lord in “[our] closets, and [our] secret places, and in [the] wilderness.”[48]

 

Even though we have been commanded to pray regularly, at times we neglect our personal prayers. Perhaps we say to ourselves, “I am too tired.  I’ll pray in the morning.  I’m going to be late this morning.  I’ll pray tonight.  Why bother.  It won’t change anything.  I’m doing all right so far.  I’ll wait until I really need something important.”  One stake president counsels his youth to stop, drop, listen, and crawl each night.  That is to stop whatever they might be doing at bedtime, drop to their knees for prayers, listen for promptings, and then crawl into bed.  He counsels them in the morning to crawl, drop, stop, and listen.  Crawl out of bed, drop to their knees in prayer, and then stop and listen for their instructions from the Lord for that day.  Brigham Young said that when you don’t feel like praying, just tell your knees to bend.[49]  Remember the words of the hymn:

 

Ere you left your room this morning,

Did you think to pray?

In the name of Christ, our Savior,

Did you sue for loving favor,

As a shield today?[50]

 

Personal prayers are often more beneficial when spoken aloud.  As we hear ourselves, we focus and prevent our minds from wandering.  This requires a private place.  If this is not possible, a private prayer offered in silence still requires our undivided attention to be powerful and mighty.

 

Jesus commanded: “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.”[51]  Occasionally it is well to stop and examine our habits of family prayer.  When all seven of our children were living at home, we had the tradition of gathering for family prayer by kneeling at a sofa.  This sofa was placed along a wall that had a framed picture of a pioneer home hung upon it.  For a few months we had foreign exchange student from Japan living with us.  She was not Christian, yet she would join us for family prayer.  One day, just before she was to return to Japan, she asked about the significance of our family worshipping a pioneer home.  She thought the picture was a religious shrine.  This was a case of misunderstanding.   We need to be sure our family prayers invite understanding and increase faith.  

An experience shared by Elder David E. Sorensen also illustrates this.  He said:

We lived on a busy street. . . .  My wife and I were concerned about the danger that street presented to our children.  We used every opportunity to reinforce the importance of staying away from the street.  In addition, this was a time in our children’s lives when they were learning about temples and eternal families.  So our children’s prayers regularly included this request: “Please help us to be married in the temple and stay out of the street.” 

 

One day after some of our neighbor’s children had gone home after playing at our house, my wife received a call from their mother.  One of her children had heard a prayer while he was visiting us and had offered this variation when he said his own prayer at home: “Please help us stay out of the temple and get married in the street.”  I trust that that particular prayer was not received exactly the way it was phrased. [52]

 

Spirituality is nurtured in the home as parents and children unite with God in prayer.  I have a personal testimony of the power and blessings of family prayer.  In the fall of my eighth year, I became ill with polio.  I remember walking home after school one cold autumn day.  About halfway home, I realized that my neck was very stiff and I could not control it from falling to one side.  I crawled up the back porch steps to get inside.  My mother asked what I was doing on my hands and knees.  I responded, “I can’t help it.”   I had a fever and I was very weak.

 

At first my parents were very concerned for my life and then for my recovery.  Even though I was frail, I remember feeling hope and peace.  My childlike trust in my parents’ ability to care for me, and my faith that Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers, comforted me.  The world celebrated the discovery of the polio vaccine, but my family also celebrated the power of prayer.  Now when I am tired, I limp a little, almost as a reminder that prayers were and are answered.  This is the reassuring testimony of prayer I received as a child, carry in my heart, and share with you. 

 

Live As You Pray

Young Joseph Smith entered a grove to pray with faith that a loving God could and would answer his prayer.  The Savior told Joseph to join none of the churches.  He did as he was told.  He obeyed.  Joseph Smith’s faith, prayer, and obedience allowed the keys of the kingdom of God to be restored to the earth.  Because he was obedient, we have available to us the all the blessings God offers to men.  

 

Prayer and actions are tied together.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught “that our deeds, in large measure, are children of our prayers.  Having prayed, we act; our proper petitions have the effect of charting a righteous course of conduct for us.  The boy who prays earnestly and devoutly and in faith that he may go on a mission, will then prepare himself for his mission.  The young people who pray always, in faith, to marry in the temple, and then act accordingly, are never satisfied with worldly marriage.”[53]  The acts and deeds of our lives are both the preparation and the conclusion of our prayers.

 

Promised Blessings

 

Can you imagine the feelings of joy the Prophet Joseph Smith felt when he recorded this promise from a God he had both seen and heard?  “Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing–yea, even more than if you should obtain treasures of earth.”[54]

 

President Ezra Taft Benson assures us that “men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can.  He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, . . . lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, . . . and pour out peace.”[55]

 

Hopefully all of us can recount with frequency and fluency the many times our prayers have been answered.  We can recognize the power and strength we have knowing our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers.  I mentioned earlier as part of my preparation for today, I have kept a journal of my feelings about prayer. I would like to share just a few of the blessings I recently recorded:

 

$          I have an increased feeling of Heavenly Father’s love for me.

$          I have received a greater witness of the gospel through my prayers and the prayers of others.

$          I am learning that prayer is a labor of love.  It takes great desire and effort on our part.   It is not for wimps, but the blessings of peace and joy are abundant. 

 

Conclusion

 

So what now?  Think for a moment about the questions stated at the beginning of this hour.  Through desire and effort, we can turn those questions into statements of testimony.

 

$          We can testify of Joseph Smith, not only his experience with prayer, but our own knowledge that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers.

$          We can offer more meaningful prayers as we listen and follow the promptings of the Spirit.

$          We can experience the power and blessings of daily personal and family prayers.

 

Throughout the scriptures, our Savior taught and exemplified the purpose and power of prayer.  He undertook the most important event of all mankind through prayer in the sacred garden grove of Gethsemane.  And especially on this day, June 27, we remember Joseph Smith, who also exemplified the power and blessings of prayer in another grove as he faithfully approached God in his desire to know the truth.

 

I testify that as we approach the Lord in prayer, with the righteous desires of our heart, the Spirit will guide our words and purify our hearts.  We will “arise and shine forth, that [our] light may be a standard for the nations,” and He will pour His blessings upon us.[56]  Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

 

REFERENCES



[1]     D&C 115:5.

[2]    In Sarah Jane Weaver, “Splendid Facility,” Church News, 26 Oct.  2002, 8.

[3]    Russell M. Nelson, “Sweet Power of Prayer,”  Ensign, May 2003, 7.

[4]     Moses 5:5.

[5]    Moses 5:4.

[6]    Moses 5:16.

[7]    David E. Sorenson, “Prayer,” Ensign, May 1993, 30.

[8]    Joseph Smith¾History 1:17.

[9]    See D&C 45:3-4.

[10]   3 Nephi 17:15-17.

[11]   Henry B. Eyring, “Prayer,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 17.

[12]   Children’s Songbook, 12.

[13]   Bible Dictionary,  “Prayer,” 752.

[14]   D&C 29:2.

[15]   Romans 8:26.

[16]   D&C 46:30.

[17]   Bible Dictionary,  “Prayer,” 753.

[18]   Enos 1:4.

[19]    Gordon B. Hinckley, “Benediction,”  Ensign, May 2003, 99.

[20]   Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 469.

 

[21]   See Alma 34:17-27.

[22]   2 Nephi 32:9.

[23]   Hinckley, “Benediction,” Ensign, May 2003, 99.

[24]   Hinckley, “Benediction,” Ensign, May 2003, 100.

[25]   Matthew 6:9.

[26]   Matthew 6:7.

[27]   Matthew 6:9.

[28]   Matthew 6:10.

[29]   Moses 4:2.

[30]   Matthew 6:11.

[31]   Matthew 6:12.

[32]   D&C 29:1.

[33]   Matthew 6:13.

[34]   D&C 122:7.

[35]   JST, Matthew 6:13.

[36]   D&C 128:23.

[37]   See Marion D. Hanks,  “Preparation for Prayer,”  Prayer (1977), 27-29.

[38]   Carlos E. Asay,  “The Language and Pattern of Prayer,”  Prayer (1977), 43.

[39]    Psalms 46:10.

[40]    See John 9:27.

[41]   Richard G. Scott, “Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer,” Ensign,  Nov. 1989, 30.

 

[42]   Scott, “Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 31.

[43]   Henry B. Eyring, “Prayer,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 15.

[44]   Moses 5:6.

[45]   Joseph Smith¾History 1:15.

[46]   Joseph Smith¾History 1:16.

[47]   2 Nephi 32:9.

[48]   Alma 34:20, 26.

[49]   See Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 45.

[50]   “Did Your Think to Pray?” Hymns,  No. 140.

[51]   3 Nephi 18:21.

[52]   David E. Sorensen, “Prayer,” Ensign, May 1993, 30.

[53]   Bruce R. McConkie, “Why the Lord Ordained Prayer,” Prayer (1977),  14.

[54]   D&C 19:38.

[55]   Ezra Taft Benson, “Jesus Christ¾Gifts and Expectations,” Ensign,  Dec. 1988, 4.

[56]    See D&C 19:38.